World Environment Day: Highlighting Youth Activism in the U.S

June 5 marks the World Environment Day, and just like last year we here at Youth Time will observe it by talking to people working in the field. 

Encouraging awareness of our environment and the actions required to protect its natural resources, we spoke to the young activist Alex Gordon with Florida Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), a national network of student-run non-profits, working with Environment America on most of their environmental campaigns.

In this piece, Gordon shares her perspective of a student advocate who works with Environment America to bring young people into this cause.

Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups with members and supporters in every state. They focus on timely, targeted action that wins tangible improvements in the quality of our environment and our lives. 

It acts for a greener and healthier world, promoting core environmental values, such as clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and clean energy to power our lives.

Let us dig deeper and see how this looks practically.

 

Action for a Greener, Healthier America

To get to that greener and healthier world, Environment America focuses on a variety of environmental initiatives.

Gordon, who is a national student leader in the youth environmental space, elaborates more on how they spread their impact.

“I specifically work with young people on college campuses. Focusing on the communities that we are in, our colleges, allows us to make a large and direct impact.”

Two of the biggest issues they are working on are reducing single-use plastic consumption and working to transition communities toward 100% renewable energy.

Alex Gordon
Going Green: Alex Gordon

“By getting local commitments to banning nonessential single-use plastics and transitioning toward renewable energy, we are working to influence and create wider-scale change.”

The successes of their work, Gordon goes on, can be seen in their successful organising across the state of Florida to get campus Student Government to pass resolutions to support the school transitioning toward 100% renewable energy.

“We could get resolutions at schools like the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida (the largest university in the nation) through collecting petitions, making announcements in classes, and meeting with key stakeholders like Student Government members.”

They did all this work completely virtually.

 

Eliminate Non-essential Single-use Plastics

We already mentioned that Environment America units 29 state environmental groups with members and supporters.

But how is this going so far, and what are some of the biggest improvements they have witnessed since the beginning of your work to this day?

“So far, we have been able to get many commitments from campuses, local governments, and more.”, she explains, and further mentions one of their biggest wins- the commitment by the entire University of California system to phase out nonessential single-use plastics.

“On top of the students who have advocated in California, we also have students from Washington to Connecticut advocating on the state-wide level for plastic reduction policies.”

Environment America is also working with groups across the country, including young people, to hold Whole Foods accountable for their plastic waste, taking this local action to the corporate level.

 

Raising Awareness Among Young People

An important part of the job includes raising public awareness on how to protect our environment.

Highlighting that young people today make up the largest and most diverse generation in our nation’s history, Gordon explains the youth contribution to this.

“We are passionate about climate action for equally diverse reasons, but we are all fighting for a future where our generation can thrive. Young people can take our passion, and channel it into effective action for change.”, she adds.

She believes that by focusing on the communities, young people have unique access to schools, and in this form can influence hundreds of people.

“Young folks have been key to every successful movement for change, and work to protect our environment is no different.”

Conclusively, Gordon shares a message for this day.

“Happy World Environment Day!”

“Everyone deserves a future that works for them, clean air to breathe, and clean water to drink. On this day, we should take the time to celebrate the progress we have all worked to make while acknowledging the work that we still need to do to ensure we have all of those things.”

 

About Alex Gordon

Alex Gordon is a current Junior at Eckerd College, in St. Petersburg, Florida. She is a double major in Political Science and Environmental Studies, and the Chapter Chair for FLPIRG Students at Eckerd. 

In 2019, Alex ran a successful Break Free from Plastic Campaign on her campus, resulting in the eventual sign on to the Pledge by Eckerd’s President, making Eckerd the first campus in the country to implement this pledge. 

Alex is especially passionate about combating plastic pollution at the local level and community-based organising! 

In her free time, you can find her reading dystopian novels or researching new zero waste swaps.


Please click HERE to read our last year’s World Environment Day piece, in which we elaborated e-waste.

World Environment Day – The Urgency of E-Waste

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